UAB Blazers

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is seen during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on October 15, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 17-10. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

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Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

UAB and South Alabama schedule home-and-home for 2019-2020

STARKVILLE, MS - SEPTEMBER 3: Cornerback Jeremy Reaves #1 of the South Alabama Jaguars celebrates after a big play during their game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Starkville, Mississippi. The South Alabama Jaguars defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 21-20. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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As UAB works to make their return to college football, there is also the business of securing future football games. On Friday, the Blazers added two more future games against an in-state opponent, South Alabama. The two schools in Alabama announced a future home-and-home series to be played in 2019 and 2020.

UAB will host South Alabama on September 21, 2019. South Alabama will be the home team the following season, on September 26, 2020.

The two schools were originally slated to play a series in 2015 and 2016, but UAB’s decision to shut the football program down forced a cancellation in the series and led to South Alabama looking for other ways to fill the gaps on the schedule. As a result, South Alabama landed a two-game series with San Diego State of the Mountain West Conference, which turned in to two victories for the South Alabama program. Last weekend’s victory over the Aztecs was the first against a top 25 program in South Alabama program history. Once UAB reversed course on the decision to shut the football program down, it was expected to be only a matter of time before UAB and South Alabama could put together new plans for an upcoming series.

UAB will return to the football field in 2017, at which time they will rejoin Conference USA and retain their full FBS status.

Leaving Illini in search of a ‘more stable program,’ Teko Powell lands at UAB

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 16: Carlos Hyde #34 of the Ohio State Buckeyes drags tacklers Houston Bates #55 and Teko Powell #93 of the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 60-35.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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After announcing last month that he would be leaving Illinois in search of a “more stable program,” Teko Powell has ended up at one that was disbanded less than two years ago, resurrected a half-year later and won’t resume play until 2017.

According to al.com, Powell (pictured, No. 93) joined the UAB program last week and is now listed on the Blazers’ roster. Powell comes to UAB as a graduate transfer from the Illini.

“I had four different head coaches that either recruited me or coached me,” Powell said in announcing his decision to leave the Illini in July. “I’m looking for a more stable program with the last two years of eligibility that I’ll have.”

Powell’s new head coach, Bill Clark, signed a five-year contract in September of last year, for what that’s worth.

After appearing in seven games as a true freshman, Powell played in 10 contests as a sophomore in 2013, starting six of those contests. He started the first three games of the following season before he was sidelined with a season-ending foot injury. Thanks to another foot injury sustained during summer camp, he also missed the entire 2015 season.

Those injuries led to Powell being granted fifth and sixth seasons from the NCAA.

Tulane, UAB announce home-and-home series

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Tanner Lee #12 of the Tulane Green Wave throws under pressure from Duke Blue Devils at Yulman Stadium on September 3, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Tulane and UAB will meet in a split home-and-home series, the schools jointly announced Tuesday.

UAB will host the Green Wave Sept. 15, 2018, with the Blazers heading to New Orleans on Sept. 25, 2021.

The former Conference USA rivals have met nine times from 1999 through 2012, with Tulane holding a 5-4 edge. The Green Wave will enter the home-and-home on a two-game winning streak, taking the most recent meeting in a 55-45 decision on Oct. 27, 2012 at the Superdome.

“Regionally, this is a great game that both fan bases will be able to travel for,” UAB head coach Bill Clark said in a statement. “This is in the recruiting radius of both schools so it should be a great series.”

UAB’s scheduling of Tulane will necessitate a new date for its previously scheduled non-conference game against Coastal Carolina; the new game date is still to be determined. The Blazers will visit Texas A&M a week after their visit to Birmingham.

Tulane has previously scheduled two Power Five opponents in both 2018 and 2021. The Green Wave is set to face Ohio State and Wake Forest in 2018 — the UAB series with UAB will replace a game with Georgia Tech — and Oklahoma and Ole Miss in 2021.

“When we scheduled Ohio State, we knew we would have to move some things around,” Tulane AD Troy Dannen told the New Orleans Advocate. “Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for us to play three Power Five schools in the same season. When we couldn’t get the dates together, we just had to cancel it.”

Tulane also announced a home date with Grambling and a home-and-home with Florida International.

UAB stays in-house to fill another coaching vacancy

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Twice this offseason, Bill Clark stayed in-house to fill vacancies on his UAB coaching staff.  For a third time, he’s taken a similar tack.

According to al.com, Clark has promoted Xavier Robinson to be the Blazers’ defensive backs coach.  Robinson had been the football program’s strength & conditioning coach since 2014.

The assistant will fill the spot on the nine-man staff opened up by the departure of Duwan Walker, who stepped down as UAB’s defensive coordinator last month to enter private business.  Clark subsequently promoted defensive line coach David Reeves to coordinator.

Reeves will continue to coach the line as well.

Also last month, Clark announced that Trey Clark had been promoted to offensive line coach.  Clark replaced Mike Bennefield, who stepped down in mid-May to spend more time with his family.

UAB returns to the playing field in 2017, although the Blazers are assembling a squad and will practice together this fall.